Gamifying telematics for fun and profit

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Gamification is the practice of adding elements of a game – scoring, competition, and potential rewards – to an activity such as a job duty or an educational course, in order to motivate the participant.

This strategy makes particular sense in commercial trucking and its use of telematics. Vehicle fleets originally introduced telematics technology for GPS navigation, tracking, and general fleet management. But after passage of the federal government’s electronic logging device (ELD) mandate, drivers found themselves subject to a set of new regulations that prompted some to push back.

Drivers who resisted electronic logging presented fleet managers with a challenge, and an opportunity. If fleet managers can show these workers how ELDs will lighten their workload and make the job more pleasant, they will be more amenable to the new rules. Gamification offers a means of doing that.

The driving game

Trucking, transportation and construction industries first adopted gamification via smartphone apps. Telematics professionals and gaming experts developed a system that monitors driver performance metrics and generates a numeric score, from zero to 100. The program allows each driver to see his or her ranking against others. Instead of monitoring driver behavior only for review by the owner or fleet manager, gamification shows drivers where they can improve their performance through modifying their driving habits.

It’s fair to say that nearly everyone in a job would prefer to see for themselves where they can do better, rather than receiving this instruction from a supervisor. Gamification gives drivers the sense that they have greater control of their work, and more influence in how the boss evaluates it. Managers also appreciate this system because it results in greater safety and efficiency.

Telematics as an ally

Gamifying what happens behind the wheel is also effective in changing the initial perception among some drivers that telematics is an unwarranted intrusion on privacy. Automotive Fleet remarked that in the beginning, “when fleet drivers were confronted with the prospect of telematics, they often balked, using the refrain of ‘Big Brother is watching’ . . . But, for an increasing number of fleets, telematics have been transformed into a platform to engage and inspire drivers to do their best.” The publication continued, “Gamification isn’t new, but it has been building momentum to engage drivers in the company’s mission.”

Customized to suit

A trucking fleet can gamify the driving experience according to the behaviors they decide to encourage. One smartphone app emphasized fuel economy, with measurements of engine RPM, engine idle time and optimal gear changes. The program transforms the data into a fuel efficiency score, available as a driver scorecard.

To reward, or not to reward

As these examples described illustrate, vehicle fleets and fleet owners see a positive outcome with gamified driver telematics. The organization increases its efficiency and may gain a competitive advantage. The drivers achieve more satisfaction when they can track their performance proactively and make changes that are reflected in their scorecards.

There is more than one reason that drivers want to acquire better rankings. The first (of course) is that they understand the relationship between higher marks in performance and job security. Another stimulus is not related to the job at all; it originates in the mysterious realm of the human psyche.

Video gamers are well acquainted with this phenomenon. They compete for points that in most cases have no actual value but provide what a Scientific American article describes as “intrinsic motivation.” As the journal explained, “If you find yourself doing something regardless of whether you’ll be paid, acknowledged or otherwise compensated in exchange for doing it, you are intrinsically motivated.”

If gamification inspires those commercial drivers who want to make sure they keep their jobs, and others who enjoy sharpening their job skills for the sheer satisfaction of it, what about the third category — who seek a more tangible reward?

The quid pro quo subset appreciates a gamified workplace too. One trucking company pays its drivers a bonus of 20 percent above their gross earnings if they maintain a weekly 0-100 scorecard at 97 or above. Not all of these drivers manage to hit that number, but enough of them try so that the company’s average driving score is a fairly consistent 94 percent.

That’s solid evidence that drivers and fleets both come out ahead when playing the telematics game.

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